Minimal risk of contracting Ebola in San Diego

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – Local residents have a minimal risk of contracting Ebola and no cases have been reported in the region, but county health officials worked to implement protocols should Ebola reach San Diego County, according to a presentation to the Board of Supervisors Tuesday.

The Ebola epidemic in West Africa and the handful of cases of the virus in the United States have dominated headlines, but for most San Diegans, the risk of contracting Ebola was very small, Deputy Public Health Officer Dr Eric McDonald said.

Those at risk for Ebola include travelers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, caregivers to Ebola patients or those who have been in close contact with them.

“You cannot get Ebola through the air, through water or food,” McDonald said. “To reiterate, Ebola can only be spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of someone who is sick with Ebola.”

County officials have been working with other healthcare entities on state and federal guidelines related to a potential local Ebola case, and plan to keep up to date with any changes and response actions.

Holly Crawford, director of the county’s Office of Emergency Services, said training was underway so county workers would be prepared to take action to “protect the health of our community and to appropriately protect themselves from the Ebola virus.”

The preparations included reviewing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protocols, implementing screening and monitoring practices, planning for cleanup actions should there be a confirmed Ebola case in San Diego County and reaching out to Dallas and New York to “glean their lessons learned from their Ebola response,” Crawford said.

“We hope we’re never required to put these plans in procedures into action,” Crawford told the board. “But your board can be confident county departments are working with our local healthcare partners to take action now to prepare for an Ebola case close to home.”

The overwhelming majority of Ebola cases have been in Africa, but the outbreak of the disease in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have raised concerns worldwide of the possible global spread of the deadly virus.

The World Health Organization reported that as of Saturday, 10,141 cases of Ebola have been reported and 4,922 people have died of the disease, county officials said.

“One of the biggest problems we have is we’re dealing with something that’s unknown to us — it’s unfamiliar and it’s very fatal,” Supervisor Ron Roberts said. “And that combination of ingredients causes the public to be intensely interested.”

McDonald urged county residents to do what they could “to keep our community safe and health,” such as being vaccinated against preventable diseases, staying home when sick and frequent hand-washing.

Categories: KUSI